Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Smoke-Free and Wanting the Same for You!!!

“I want to quit, but now is not a good time”.  “I will quit before I am ___ years old”.  “Maybe if I just try to only smoke a couple a day”.  “I know, I will just smoke on Saturdays”.  “I won’t buy my own cigarettes, I will just bum them off of other people, that way I won’t smoke too much”.  “I can smoke just a couple”.  “I am really stressed out right now, so I am going to have a few but then when the stress passes, I will stop”.
Do any of these statements sound even remotely familiar?  They did to me, but only after years and years of repeatedly trying to quit smoking.   These were my thoughts up until a little under 5 years ago.  In June of 2006, I came down with a really nasty upper respiratory infection.  These were quite frequent for me because I smoked but you could never get me to admit it.  I always blamed stress or diabetes, which I’m sure both played a role, but the smoking always made any infection worse.  This particular infection quickly went into my throat and chest.  Congestion, coughing, and a complete exacerbation of asthma led to prescriptions of antibiotics and steroids.  Though this was not the first time I had to undergo this type of treatment, there was something different stirring.
One night, during the peak of the illness, I was lying in bed.  I had taken my medicine, and I’m sure I used my inhaler, but I could hear crackling in my throat and wheezing in my chest with every breath that I breathed.  I remember thinking, “if this is how I feel at the age of 32, how will I feel at the age of _______”.  I can’t even remember the age I thought of that night, but I remember the fear I felt and the complete powerlessness I felt about smoking.  With the help of God and a recovery community, I had been sober for almost 5 years at that point, why couldn’t I kick this too? 
Many of my friends who had already quit kept telling me, “you’ll know when it’s time, you’ll just know”.  I never really understood that statement….until a few months later.  One would think that after a scare like I had in June of that year that this would have been it, that I would have kicked the habit.  But no…the insanity of addiction, the belief of lies, the powerlessness I felt led to me picking up cigarettes once I stopped feeling sick.  However, God knew what I needed and after that illness, lying to myself about cigarettes was never the same.  I started hearing the lies.  I started recognizing them as lies.  I was able to hear the ridiculousness of the lies.  I finally realized that everything I was telling myself about cigarettes was the same thing I had told myself about all the other “habits” I had let go of when I got sober.  I finally realized I needed to CHOOSE TO BE DONE AND COMBAT THE LIES WITH THE TRUTH. 
Many other people may have had this revelation much sooner than I did….or never picked up this habit in the first place.  I didn’t plan to be a smoker.  I never believed “those people” when I was 17 and 18 that told me I shouldn’t smoke, that I would become addicted, that it was bad for me.  I was in a self-destructive place but denied it.  I thought I was a way cool deadhead hippie who would eventually quit before I got “old”, whatever that meant.  I realized that I didn’t want to be a smoker anymore and needed to just quit once and for all. No patch.  No gum.  No pill.  Just God, exercise, and a ton of gum and wintergreen life savers. 
It would be a total understatement to say that this was not easy.  In fact, it was the hardest of all things I have had to quit.  God’s grace and His help in rejecting lies was essential.  I felt angry and agitated and then hit a depression that measured off the charts.  All of it, I know was an attempt by the enemy to get me to believe more lies so that I would return to smoking.  I started recognizing that anytime I had the thought that “things were bad and one cigarette would lessen _________ feeling….that I could smoke just one” was a total lie and was exactly what I used to tell myself about drinking and other things.  If it was a lie that I could have just one drink, it was certainly a lie that I could have just one cigarette.  God made this very clear to me and I am so thankful that He did.  I had tried quitting seriously over 10 times since the age of 20 and it had never stuck.  This time I was ready and my Heavenly Father helped me to get through the rough period following my last cigarette. 
Though I felt horrible for 2 months, it got better.  My breathing felt better, I became less angry, my mood improved, there were less and less trails of gum wrappers left throughout my job and home.  I was exercising and felt good about myself.  It kept getting better.  Every time I had the thought or craving to smoke and rejected it as a lie, I felt victorious.  I was clinging to God for strength and He was strengthening me.  After the first year, I could barely believe I had made it, but I could no longer picture my life with smoking.  It was a miracle.  It will be 5 years of cigarette-free living for me as of October 1, 2011.  My God is an awesome God.  He” heals all my diseases” (Psalm 103:3).  He “released my feet from the snare” (Psalm 25:15).  He was so good to me that He came and freed me while I was still smoking, instead of waiting for me to figure it out by myself.  This is my God, my Jesus and while in pursuit of God during this time, this was all before I had recommitted to following Him a short time later.
Why do I share this information?  I know how hard it is to quit.  I know that people often judge smokers and don’t understand why we can’t just stop on our own.  I have been there, done that, and God has set me free.  I needed others to support me, to let me vent to them, to share their own stories of quitting with me to encourage me. 
I share this for anyone, if you chose to read this, who is caught in the trap of cigarette addiction or any other addiction for that matter.  I want to see everyone get free.  If God would free me, He would free anyone and that means you!!!  If you are in this place, if you feel you cannot break free, if you feel no one would understand, you are a person I would LOVE TO PRAY FOR ---I WANT TO SEE YOU FREE!!!!! If you feel comfortable enough to message me or to comment, I will pray for you.  God loves you.  He is your deliverer.  He will make you free.
Blessings to you!!!

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Man Who Loved Without Strings Attached

When you know that no words can adequately capture the depths of your feelings or the beauty of the memories you have about a person who has passed, what is the best thing to do when trying to figure out how to express your thoughts? 
In my case, I needed to wait for a few days to share and express my thoughts until I could string some memories and thoughts together of a good friend who passed on September 9th.  (For the purposes of anonymity in this blog post, I will simply refer to this person as” friend”)  I can’t remember the first interaction I had with my friend, but I know that I had known him from the day I was given the gift of sobriety on July 8th, 2001.  My friend sat in a meeting with what seemed like a million years sober to a newcomer such as myself.  I remember him speaking in the meeting through the haze and anger of my newness, but cannot remember the words he spoke.  What I remember is his presence. 
This presence he carried brought comfort and peace to situations.  I had felt it every time I was around him for even just a few minutes.  I was a fearful person when I got sober, but my friend’s presence began to make me feel a little more safe.  He was always there.  I could always count on him to be there.  I knew he would tell me what me what I NEEDED to hear and though the truth hurt sometimes, his love shone through the words and I knew that he had my best interest at heart. 
And he didn’t stop at just being present for the business of recovery…no, this was a man who was invested in relationships!  My friend took the business of recovery seriously, and this showed as he made people his priority.  It was so obvious to those who knew him.  There was never a day that I wondered where I stood with him.  I knew that my friend was there for me 100% and there were no conditions on this relationship.  He didn’t require that I did or said the right things.  He didn’t require perfection or put parameters on my behavior.  When I needed help, he did not hesitate.  There was one occasion where he heard I needed help and all he asked in return was that I pay it forward.  This was truly a man who loved without strings attached. 
My friend shared his heart with those he met, for better or for worse.  His honesty was admirable and his humility was a trait I strove to acquire.   Further adding to this amazing man’s character was that he was totally hysterical, fun and spontaneous, and had one of the meanest games of 1:00am poker of anyone I knew!  During all the fun, he was always quick to show wisdom to those of us who didn’t know much…all the while, laughing and letting us know he was just as human as we were.
 I know that when I came into my recovery, I was a lost little “kid” at 27 years old.  There were many men and women around me, who I am sure would say the same.  In a group where “kids” are many, my friend demonstrated the biggest father’s heart of anyone I had the experience of knowing up to that point.  Not only did he demonstrate this fatherly type of love to me by supporting me, encouraging me, and helping me out of emotional pits, but I watched as he shared his "father’s heart” with anyone and everyone else in need this type of love who crossed his path.  Even after I left my home in Champaign-Urbana, my friend's support consistently remained through my own transition, growing pains, and grieft due to losses I faced after I left.  It meant so very much to me that every time I visited, my friend ALWAYS made time to spend with me.  I am so grateful that I was able to visit with him in July.  It was a bittersweet honor to have been there with him on his last day with us and the sight of his family and closest friends surrounding him will forever be in my memory.
It is so rare to meet men like my friend…I am blessed to have known someone like him in my lifetime.  I have seen written social media comments from many of my friends who have told me how much this man’s encouragement to me has impacted them, and these are people who don’t even know him.  What a great legacy this man has left to the world.   For the rest of my life, I will always talk fondly of this man who loved without strings attached.  Thank you Father God, that you allowed me the privilege to know him.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Gold-Filled Pits

With all the talk, Facebook banter, and inappropriate jokes, rumors, and speculation surrounding the recent death of yet another celebrity struggling with addiction, I felt compelled to put my thoughts into writing and share them.

Whether you have or haven’t battled it, have or haven’t suffered while a family member, friend, or loved one battles it, or whether it is an issue you care or don’t care about, addiction is a horrible, frustrating, and tragic disease that kills all those who are unable to break free from it.  In a world where independence and pulling yourself up from your own bootstraps are often valued over admitting powerlessness and seeking help, perhaps it is confusing or even a little scary, to people who have not had any direct or indirect exposure to this disease, why the addict just can’t seem to stop on their own.

Many, many years ago, I didn’t understand the seriousness or the dangers of this disease.  I was writing letters to the editor on teenage alcohol use, speaking to elementary school students with my high school’s peer leadership program, swearing that I would not be a drinker like a close family member.  It’s cunning and baffling how the disease of addiction works.  The disease didn’t care what I was doing to take a stand against it.  It didn’t care that I wanted to prevent it from harming others.  And it certainly didn’t care that I did not want to turn out to have the problems my family member had.  Addiction, and I am including alcoholism in the use of this word, does not discriminate.  It doesn’t care who you are, where you come from, what you do for a living, what your childhood was like, or how much money you have or don’t have.  This disease lies to its victim by telling he/she they don’t have the disease.  People with the disease of addiction are laughed at, shamed, and yelled at for having the disease.  To add to the disgrace of having this disease, many of its victims are the center of jokes after dying from the disease.

Again, addiction didn’t care about my determination not to have it.  By the age of 14, I had started drinking.  By the age of 17, my addiction had started and it took hold of me for the next 10 years of my life.  It didn’t discriminate because I was in college or getting my master’s degree.  In fact, those things were used by my addiction to rationalize why I couldn’t possibly have a problem.  It was by the sheer grace, love and mercy of the all-loving, almighty Father God that I was rescued from the pit the disease had dug for me and thrown me into.  God wanted me back and I was willing to cooperate so that He could pull me up, dust me off, and heal me up. 

Unfortunately, many do not make it out alive.  I have lost friends to this disease.  I have seen them battle and battle and battle, only to lose.  I don’t know why some of us make it and some of us don’t.  What I do know is what is discussed in 12 step recovery programs: we have a spiritual malady that can only be remedied with a spiritual solution.  The solution is our relationship with God.  Ephesians 6:12 says “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  Many of us discuss the general concept of disease being from the enemy and this can also be applied to the disease of addiction.  It is another stronghold, a trap, a prison in the form of sickness that the enemy uses to keep people from truly knowing God and walking in their callings and destinies. 

Tonight, I was watching a TV program where a family was chronicling their 21-year-old son’s battle with heroin addiction.  Sadly, the son lost his battle to the disease just 9 days after his 21st birthday.  As the parents discussed the son’s repeatedly-stated desire to get sober, they quoted their son as saying that the heroin was “like satan in [his] veins and [he] was a slave to it”.  This a pretty clear picture of the nature of addiction and it really spoke to the point that the only way out of the pit is being lifted up by God.  As I heard these parents quote their son, I immediately thought of Colossians 2:19 in the Message which states that Christ puts us together in one piece and his breath and blood flow through us.  When we come to know Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior, believe that we have been crucified and raised with him, and can walk in that the truth that we are new creations, knowing our freedom is the result.  “Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor 3:17).  I am free from addiction because the Spirit of the Lord is in me and the very breath and blood of Jesus are flowing through me, as I belong to him. 

However, it can be quite difficult to walk in this truth by ourselves, especially because, as stated earlier, addiction is a disease that tells the addict they don’t have it.  This is where other believers, especially those who have also been set free, can assist in speaking God’s truth over and over again to the person struggling.  More important, is ensuring that the person struggling has heard the gospel of good news and has opportunities to say yes to the One who will save them both in this life and eternally.  Sharing Jesus with others, shining our light into darkness, proclaiming that he has come to set the captives free, providing love, encouragement and community to others is what a hurting a broken world needs.  I didn’t need to hear that I was garbage when I was drinking and using. I knew that already.  What I needed to hear was that there was hope and I thank my Father in Heaven that I did. What a hurting family needs to hear is the hope of Jesus, that he is the comfort in their grief, and that he will bind up their broken hearts not the jokes and bashing that have followed deaths of people with this issue.

Imagine what could be if those struggling with addiction met Jesus and were able to walk into their destiny, instead of being met with stigma and criticism.  Imagine if the media focused on the gold in celebrities instead of their dirt.  Imagine a world where we, as believers, filled up the enemy-dug pits with gold so full that there was no room at the bottom for people...they would be forced to rise to the top!!!

I am so grateful to have been rescued from this horrible stronghold.  I am grateful that people spoke God's gold into my pit so that I could be lifted out of it.  My prayer is that I would improve in my ability to share and demonstrate the love, mercy, and healing that Jesus has so freely given to me that I may be able to fill other people's pits with gold.    

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Changing my alignment...

Written 4/20/11

Just what does one do to fill up their time when they are not working an 8 to 5 job?  Well, if you are anything like me, you will certainly find things to fill it up pretty quickly.  I can say, with relief, that I am enjoying not having to set an alarm for 5:30am, only to hit snooze until 6am, still exhausted from a restless sleep.  However, I am still setting an alarm…most days…in order to pursue the things that I am passionate about, that bring me a sense of fulfillment, that allow me to align myself more and more with who God says I am.

I have the privilege of being part of one of the most amazing churches!  After a dinner tonight with 3 amazing women of God, I continue to see confirmation of the reasons I was brought to Chicago.  Talking with them about ministry, about pursuing God, and about fighting for destinies corporately and personally further fanned the flame of passion stirring in me to see all that God will do with me, with my friends, with my church, with this city, etc.  I get the privilege of investing my time and my energy into many different things at this church and I am so grateful for every opportunity to do so.

Approximately 6 to 8 months ago, I started seeing (or rather, frantically tried to turn the channel so as not to see) a rash of horror/thriller/enemy-centered movies come out.  Quite honestly, this upset me greatly.  I found myself in my kitchen one day talking to God about it and tearfully expressing to Him that I didn’t understand why these movies were so popular.  I was angry that the enemy was using dirty and counterfeited tactics through media to trick people into believing that these dark themes would be somehow entertaining.  I cried out to God saying that I didn’t understand why movies glorifying Him weren’t more popular than anything else.  I started talking about it with friends, and specifically one filmmaker friend of mine who had already been developing ideas for a revival-focused film.  Today, I am honored to be able to assist him in doing some of his PR/promotional work.  I get the honor of putting my energy where my mouth is where God is concerned and I get to help a good friend with a great documentary that will glorify my Heavenly Father and ignite revival fires.

I used to write when I was young….all the time….songs, short stories, poetry.  I loved writing.  It released me from my feelings and allowed me to be creative.  When I was 13 or 14, I would sit at my dad’s typewriter in his office and start my autobiography.  I probably started it a couple of times on a couple of occasions before throwing out the crumpled up start to my story, telling myself that no one would want to read the autobiography of a teenager who had never really done anything.  Then, I started my pursuit of substances and stopped most of my creative outlets altogether, telling myself I wasn’t talented.  I shut it all down, period.  When I came to Chicago, I had the belief that I had absolutely, positively no creative talent.  This was incredibly frustrating as I came from a family full of artists and was a member of one of a church FULL many, many creatives.  I received a couple of prophetic words about 7 or so months after being here regarding me writing books/programs….however, I shut the idea of this being true down thinking “I’m not a writer, I’m not creative”.  The stirring was there, and I believe now that the stirring is from God.  There is a reason that I wanted to write all the time as a kid and very recently, I have found myself drawn again to writing.  As I sit here and type this, my soul resonates with even the mere act of putting words to my thoughts and feelings.  That all said, two days prior to my decision to leave my job, I was at a friend’s house.  This friend is an amazing musician and she was playing a riff on her guitar that spoke to my spirit.  I heard a sentence in my head that fit with the music and it did not leave my head that night.  My friend emailed me the riff and the next day, I wrote the first song I had written since I was about 8 or 9 years old…a worship song.  Additionally, I had been in talks with another friend/former colleague of mine, who had seen one other piece of writing I had done at the beginning of this year, before I left my job.  These talks focused on the possibility of us writing a book together.  I am so excited and amazed to say that the decision has been made and that this possibility is now a “let’s do this thing” 

I find myself in total awe at the fact that the stirrings and dreams I had long ago have come back to the surface, that God cares and listens to my cries out to him in my kitchen, and that He knew the right church in which to place me to ensure that I would continue seeking and walking into the plans He has for my life.  As the Holy Spirit helps me to become more like Jesus, my desires and hopes continue to change.  Proverbs 19:21 says "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails. Though I had seen and taken certain paths in my life, God has used those to lead me to Him, to conform my will to be more like His, and to guide me more and more into who I am becoming for His ultimate purposes.  For this, I am truly grateful.

There is more to this type of a journey for me, however…the “doing” versus “being” and the balance between the two with Him at the center, and this is something with which I have historically struggled.  To be continued in another blog post….

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Journey Begins...

This is the start of keeping a journal, diary, blog, or whatever comes out at, what I feel is, a nudging from God.  I believe He is pushing me in the direction of writing about how my journey of a faith-walk unfolds.  I have been walking with Jesus for a while now, but this is yet another new step because I made a decision and this month it was completed.  By the world’s standards, the choice was “stupid” or foolish.  The choice was impractical and didn’t make sense.  The choice was to leave a well-paying job and start a new chapter….

I started working at this job over two and a half years ago and it is the job that brought me to this city.  Without going into great detail about history (after all this is my walk of faith not my journey into the past) the job was not fulfilling for me.  That said, I stayed.  I persevered.  I fought through days and situations at this job that, for most, may have otherwise resulted in possible expletive-filled, emotionally charged exits.  I stayed.  I persevered.  I fought.  During the course of my employment, both my parents and both my cats died.  I was promoted twice.  I said goodbye to a boss for whom I had worked for six years at two different jobs.  And through it all, I continued to develop my relationship with God and to seek His plan for my life.  I would be remiss not to say that this job was God’s gift to me for as long as I have had it.  Not only was it a generous way for me to more than make my ends meet, but I have learned many, many things about myself, about leadership, and about who He is in the midst of challenging and painful situations.  I learned that I can walk through so much, provided I ground myself in who He is.  I learned that I am so much stronger than I ever gave myself credit for.  I learned that my administrative gifts were valued by people.  Above all, I learned that this was not the job for me and that money does not mean everything….that I do have a purpose and though I am not fully sure what it is, I do know that God is sure and He will lead me to it because it is part of His plan.  He will lead me into fulfillment in His purposes. 

So…I have stepped out in faith, yet again.  It looks different this time as compared with the previous experience of leaving a job without having another one.  This time, I don’t have my parents as a “fall back plan”.  This time, it is just me and God.  Granted, I do have a good savings, but it is not a limitless supply.  I have a mortgage and a car payment and human fears about bills.  But I have a God who is so much bigger than any fear I will ever have.  I am willing to give up anything for Him, because He gave up everything for me.  Obviously it would be great to keep my house and my car and not have to get a roommate, but I am willing to do what it takes to follow Him, whatever that looks like.  So this is the introduction to what will be a new journey of faith for me. 

God, I invite you to do as you will with me during this period and to strengthen me with your love, joy, and peace, should the journey get rough.  Help me to be honest in my days of writing.  Comfort me and continue to confirm that I am no longer an orphan.  Show me what it really means to be Fathered by You, the Father of all.

Introduction To My Journey (January 2011)

Overwhelmed with God’s great love and mercy…

Upon my return from Church this afternoon, I completed a few simple household tasks, eyes still raw from the tears shed during a powerful time at church.  The thoughts poured over me of the goodness of my God and His continued faithfulness to me.  God has brought me out of the vast darkness that had held me bound for so long.

In the afterglow of a tear-induced nap, I am still attempting to process all that has happened and the wonders of His amazing goodness.

The last two and a half years have been the most challenging years that I can remember ever walking through.  As I look back through pieces of my story, before any of my time in Chicago even came to pass, I can see periods of my life where I was on a search…..a search to find my purpose, a search to find identity, a search to find acceptance, a search to find community, a search to find love….really this was a search for all of that wrapped up in my search for my Heavenly Father.  God has shown me that “all the days ordained for me were written in [His} book before one of them came to pass” (Ps 139:16) and that He knew the plans he had for me, plans to prosper and not to harm me, plans to give me a hope and a future (Jer 29:11).  In Jeremiah, God goes on to say “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you and will bring you back from captivity” (Jer 29:12-14).  In all the life steps I have taken, before I even knew God, He was there, He heard my heart’s cries and my mouth’s cries for Him….He pursued me because, in His eyes, I am worth pursuing and He did not give up on me. 

God prepared me to come to Chicago, by loving me back to following Him through a church family.  He left nothing out in the preparation – NOTHING – and was faithful to answer my prayers for direction in a way only I could understand.  Today, I am fully and wholly convinced that He called me to Chicago – the city in which I had dreamed of living for many years.  Though I am not fully sure of His plans for me, I know they are good and I know that in these two and half years, He has NEVER left my side.

When I arrived here in May 2008, I did not know what I was to face.  I had been pursuing, even fighting for, emotional healing through 12-step recovery for many years.  I had been set free from the captivity of addiction and had re-committed my life to Jesus.  I had visited a church the first weekend here but, with His prompting, I tried another church the second weekend here.  Through a supernatural experience of Him in this place, I knew that this was to be my church home.  I immediately joined this church family and continue there to this day. 

In just over 16 months of living in Chicago, both my parents and one of my cats had died.  If I had still lived in Champaign, I would not have been able to be with my parents in their last days of life.  This was an opportunity for me that I had only because of my obedience to God in moving here.  However, I was not prepared for the overwhelming grief, sadness, and pain I would feel as a result of these losses.  Because of my profession, I had a basic, textbook knowledge of the depths of grief.  I had even worked through some minor episodes of grief due to changes and losses over time, but nothing like what I faced here.  I was not prepared for the wounds that these deaths would re-open, nor was I prepared for the old faulty core belief systems to increase, the loneliness, the emotional regression, or the intense urges to run back to the safety and comfort of Champaign.  Though I could barely see through the intense emotion of that period, God was there. 

In this time, I found myself feeling more lonely than I ever remember feeling.  I did not feel accepted  – not because of others but because of me.  Work was challenging.  My emotional state was fragile at best and, in all honesty, I thought I was losing my mind.  I pushed people away on a frequent basis, and was so angry and grief-soaked, that I was merely functioning and surviving….not living.  God was still there and was placing people around me at church that did not allow me to go through this alone.  In addition, He was showing me new areas of focus and awakening giftings in me that I was not even aware I had.

I had intense periods of darkness and despair and found it hard to describe this to people.  When I did describe it, many, well-intentioned people were quick to offer the advice of anti-depressants to “get me through” this time.  I resisted this option because on some level, I knew that this was not just a period I needed to get through, but a full-on battle for my heart and mind.  I’m not a bible scholar, by any means, so my knowledge of the Old Testament was quite elementary.  A few months after my mother had died, I was on a much-needed work sabbatical and heard Joyce Meyer speak on Deuteronomy 8.  This was the first time I had heard about this book or the possible purpose of the wilderness, and it was a turning point for me. 

The concept of the wilderness fit in every way possible and I had revelation about where I was…but, better than that, I then had an idea of why I was there.  God didn’t stop there…he went further.  He also showed me that when He leads His people out of Egypt to the wilderness, His glory is there (Ex 16: 10)….He hears our complaints and shows us who He is in the midst of our fear, our darkness, our loneliness, our own individual wilderness.  Deuteronomy 7 says that when God brings into the “land you are entering”, he drives out many nations and when He has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them , then you must destroy them totally (Deu 7:1-2).  It says He will drive them out little by little (Deu 7: 22) and that we are not to be terrified by them because God is with us and He is a great and awesome God. (Deu 7:21).  I had a lot of nations/”ites” for God to drive out.  Through the great loss I had suffered, God led me to a place where His glory could be found.  He was waiting for me in that wilderness and He has lovingly been “driving out nations” from me in that place over the last two and a half years so that I could enter the land He has set aside for me….the plans He has for me…my destiny.

Deuteronomy 8:1-9 says the following:  “Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the LORD promised on oath to your ancestors. Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.

Observe the commands of the LORD your God, walking in obedience to him and revering him. For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills.”

Through it all, I have not turned my back on God.  In my complaining, my crying, my grief, my despair, my loneliness, my anger, my pushing people away, my inability to communicate with Him what my needs were, my struggles with prayer and quiet time, my fear that my emotions would hold me captive, my negative thoughts about myself, I clung to Him, my only source of refuge and peace.  There were times I had felt He was so far away, I felt dry.  He was still there. 

I was given a prophetic word….a scripture written by a prophet in a book to me – just the scripture, no interpretation.  I tried for weeks to seek God on the interpretation.  I was really wanting to just feel Him with me…then, one Sunday in Church, my pastor quoted the scripture and talked about the implications.  The scripture was Luke 2:36-38 and talked about Anna sticking close to God and continuing to pursue Him for the promise of Jesus the Messiah. Our pastor talked about God never remaining silent even when we perceive Him to be and the need for us to hold onto the promise and not the circumstances for our truth (my interpretation of his message).  God was speaking to me even in the perceived dry times, He was not going to let me go and continued to whisper words of love and encouragement to me.  My wilderness has led me to a deeper understanding of who He is in my darkest hours and I believe that I have done my best to keep His commands.  The deaths of my parents were horrific.  Through them, through the move, through the work challenges, God used the wilderness to raise me up and to equip me with a heart knowledge of Him and His love.  My shoes did not wear out, my feet did not swell….He blessed me with favor throughout this time in many other areas while He was disciplining me and driving out the “ites” so that I could walk into that which He has called me.  God has brought me out of the darkness.  I feel that the wilderness, in many ways, has ended.  As a result, my perceptions have changed about myself and others, and especially of Him and my relationship with Him.  He is so good and He is a loving Father who will meet us where we are and heal us in the wilderness. 

I am completely and totally overwhelmed at the amazing love, favor, and grace of God.  My heart is full with a knowledge of what He has done to heal me….no human could have fixed me, only Him.  The emptiness inside of any of us can only be filled by Him.  He is in the wilderness waiting to meet us and bring us through so that we can walk with Him into the greater things to which He has called us.  I am truly humbled and forever grateful.